As we got off of the bus at 5:00 AM in Sa Pa, Vietnam, tiny village women approached us. They immediately asked us if we wanted to go on a hike with them and then afterwards stay in their village. If it were not for my friend previously doing this… the me before South East Asia definitely would have been a bit skeptical. But after being here, I’ve noticed how much more trusting I am towards others. Examples: lost alone without a phone or map and a Tuk Tuk driver says he can bring you to where you need to go?–Yes please! Follow little village women who say they can take you far up in to the mountains, without any wifi or reception, to stay at one of their houses without knowing them?–That sounds amazing! At home, I would never trust a random little lady telling me that she could take me to her house, especially without knowing her at all. But here, everything is different. Of course, you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times and make smart decisions; there will always be people who may not do the right thing. But I feel as if for the most part, things are just as they seem in here and you can believe in most people.
As we started our trek up the mountain, the six hour journey was filled with miles and miles of greenery; it seemed as if no matter where you looked there was always a breathtaking view that came right out of a photograph. To think that these people get to wake up to these views everyday– wow.
Once we had arrived at the village, I immediately started to take in everything that I saw, and it surely gave me a lot to think about.
Peaceful and happy life, or a life lived in poverty? These people did not look poor to me, but instead looked as if their lives were filled with joy. Their lives included every day tasks that many in our society do not have to endure, and lived in a setting that would not be up to many people’s standards. However, I did not see people deprived of their basic needs or people incapable of fulfilling a happy life. Instead, I saw a simple yet happy life; the children were constantly smiling as they ran around their playground that consisted of the surrounding mountains, the family shared a DELICIOUS meal together three times a day, and everyone in the village shared warm smiles as they conversed with one another. Yes, I did see a dark small building that comprised of concrete walls and floors, no lights, no toilet, no shower, no running water, and a kitchen made by a simple fire with a pot propped above it. However, it seemed as if they needed nothing more than this to fulfill their everyday needs. The happiness that the village people emitted masked what some may call the setbacks in their lives.
Would this still be considered poverty, I wondered? Away from the hustle of cities, media, and other cultural phenomenon that seem to illustrate how people should live their lives, these people get to create and define their own happiness based off of what they think life should encompass. I found myself wondering, what if I was born into such a life instead of my own? Isn’t it just pure chance that I was born into my family instead of one such as in this village? What would my life have been like? Would I have been happy living in such a way, or would I have captured glances of modern day life on my occasional trips to town and wanted to leave my village? In a way, I envied the simplicity of their lives; constantly surrounded by trees and mountains, few but loving neighbors and family, and the peaceful noise of nothingness. In their lives, happiness was theirs to create. I hope to never forget the simple happiness that these village people got out of the little things in life…for I think that many people today forget that that is how it should be.
As we awoke on the day of our journey back to the town of Sa Pa, everywhere in sight was hazy; fog covered every which way we looked and the rain inevitably started to come down as soon as we started walking. As we followed Su, whom was dressed in her traditional village clothing, the rain seemed to intensify with every step. After two hours, with four hours left to go, we were completely drenched and shivering cold. However, Su still marched on with a smile, making sure we were ok every couple of minutes. Even though we could not see far due to the fog and pursuing rain, the journey still remained beautiful.
Although the trek to the village was too short, it was filled with pure kindness and a type of beauty that I will never forget. How amazing it was to see that such simplicity can still bring about a great deal of happiness…